William B. SILL is now living retired in Granville, but for many years was connected with farming interests in Putnam county and the strong purpose and resolute will which he displayed in carrying on his business pursuits brought him a measure of success that now supplies him with the comforts that go to make life worth living. He was born in Senecaville, Guernsey county, Ohio, July 10, 1838, and is a son of John and Mary Ann (DILLEY) SILL, the former a native of Pennsylvania and the latter of Ohio. They were married in Ohio, where they resided until 1851, when they came to Illinois, settling south of Magnolia in Marshall county. The father was a carpenter and wheelwright by trade and was thus engaged during the period of his residence in the Buckeye state. He also worked in the same way for some time after coming to Illinois. When he had spent a few years in Marshall county he removed to Hennepin, where he was engaged in wagonmaking for several years. After the death of his wife, which occurred in 1867, he continued to make his home in Hennepin and in old age resided with his son William B., at whose home he passed away in April, 1900, at the advanced age of eighty-seven years.
William B. SILL was the eighth in order of birth in a family of nine children, five of whom are yet living, but he is the only one in Putnam county. He was a youth of thirteen yeas when he came with his parents to Illinois. They were very poor and as a result William B. SILL had to begin work at the age of thirteen years in order to provide for his own support. He had but limited educational privileges but was early trained to habits of industry and economy and these proved of value to him in his later life. He had been trained to but one kind of work and therefore when he began to earn his living it was as a farm hand. He first worked for eight dollars per month and was thus employed until about twenty-three years of age. He then rented land in Hennepin township and engaged in farming on his own account. In 1863 he had the misfortune to break one of his legs and this, combined with his poor health, almost completely discouraged him. He thought that perhaps he might be benefited by going to the west and therefore made his way to Montana, where he purchased a two-thousand foot claim and engaged in mining. The venture proved profitable at first, but later he lost much that he had made through another investment and success in that enterprise was so uncertain that he decided to try farming. He therefore homesteaded three eighty-acre tracts of land, upon which he carried on general agricultural pursuits and stock-raising. He lived in Montana during the pioneer epoch in the history of that state, his home being a little cabin with a dirt floor and dirt roof. He experienced all the hardships and trials incident to frontier life, but continued in his farm work there until 1877, when he sold out and returned to Putnam county. Here he invested his capital in one hundred and forty acres of land, which was already improved to some extent. He had to incur some indebtedness in order to make the purchase, but has since been quite successful in his farming operations and is now the owner of four hundred acres of very valuable and productive land, constituting one of the good farms of the county, the rental from which is sufficient to supply him with all the necessities and many of the comforts and luxuries of life. Five years ago he retired from active business cares and built a commodious residence in Granville, where he has since made his home.
On the 4th of May, 1874, Mr. SILL was married to Miss Martha A. HARPER, who was born in Putnam county, a daughter of James HARPER, one of the early settlers of this part of Illinois. Mrs. SILL died upon the home farm in Granville township, in 1879, leaving a daughter, Minnie, who is now living with her mother’s sister on the Harper homestead. She went to live with her grandparents at the time of her mother’s death and has since been with that family. Nine years after the death of his first wife Mr. SILL was again married, his second union being with Ann E. DRENNEN, a native of this county and a daughter of James and Nancy (WYATT) DRENNEN. She is still living and by this marriage there are four children, three of whom survive, the youngest having died in infancy. The others are Ethel, Roy D. and Jessie.
When upon the farm Mr. SILL engaged in general agricultural pursuits. All that he possesses has been acquired through hard and unremitting labor and careful management. At times fate has seemed to him very unkind, owning to his ill health and to disastrous consequences which have attended his business interests through no fault of his own, yet he has never given up and as the result of his resolute spirit and strong determination he has worked his way upward. Each difficulty and obstacle in his path has seemed to serve as an impetus for renewed effort and he has learned the lesson from each mistake, and pressed forward to the goal of prosperity, being now one of the substantial residents of Granville. In politics he has always been a democrat and at this writing, in 1906, is serving as commissioner of highways, which position he has filled for twelve years. He is also serving for the second term as a member of the village board of aldermen and exercises his official prerogatives in support of every movement for the general good. He has been an Odd Fellow since 1863 and is most loyal to the teachings of that organization, which is based upon the brotherhood relations of mankind.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, 1907.